RNA sequencing indicates that atrazine induces multiple detoxification genes in Daphnia magna and this is a potential source of its mixture interactions with other chemicals

Chemosphere. 2017 Dec;189:699-708. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.09.107. Epub 2017 Sep 25.


Atrazine is an herbicide with several known toxicologically relevant effects, including interactions with other chemicals. Atrazine increases the toxicity of several organophosphates and has been shown to reduce the toxicity of triclosan to D. magna in a concentration dependent manner. Atrazine is a potent activator in vitro of the xenobiotic-sensing nuclear receptor, HR96, related to vertebrate constitutive androstane receptor (CAR) and pregnane X-receptor (PXR). RNA sequencing (RNAseq) was performed to determine if atrazine is inducing phase I-III detoxification enzymes in vivo, and estimate its potential for mixture interactions. RNAseq analysis demonstrates induction of glutathione S-transferases (GSTs), cytochrome P450s (CYPs), glucosyltransferases (UDPGTs), and xenobiotic transporters, of which several are verified by qPCR. Pathway analysis demonstrates changes in drug, glutathione, and sphingolipid metabolism, indicative of HR96 activation. Based on our RNAseq data, we hypothesized as to which environmentally relevant chemicals may show altered toxicity with co-exposure to atrazine. Acute toxicity tests were performed to determine individual LC50 and Hillslope values as were toxicity tests with binary mixtures containing atrazine. The observed mixture toxicity was compared with modeled mixture toxicity using the Computational Approach to the Toxicity Assessment of Mixtures (CATAM) to assess whether atrazine is exerting antagonism, additivity, or synergistic toxicity in accordance with our hypothesis. Atrazine-triclosan mixtures showed decreased toxicity as expected; atrazine-parathion, atrazine-endosulfan, and to a lesser extent atrazine-p-nonylphenol mixtures showed increased toxicity. In summary, exposure to atrazine activates HR96, and induces phase I-III detoxification genes that are likely responsible for mixture interactions.

Keywords: Aquatic toxicology; Concentration-dependent; Gene expression; Induction; Mixture model; Nuclear receptor.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atrazine / toxicity*
  • Daphnia / drug effects
  • Daphnia / physiology*
  • Herbicides / toxicity
  • Inactivation, Metabolic / genetics
  • Parathion
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Toxicity Tests, Acute
  • Triclosan / toxicity
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism


  • Herbicides
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Xenobiotics
  • constitutive androstane receptor
  • Triclosan
  • Parathion
  • Atrazine